From NAFTA to CETA: Canada-EU Deep Economic Integration
By Dana Gabriel
Canada and the European Union (EU) have already held five rounds of negotiations towards a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) which will go beyond NAFTA. With the sixth round of talks scheduled to take place in Brussels, Belgium from January 17-21, Canadian and EU officials remain optimistic that a deal could be finalized by the end of 2011. Thus far, negotiations have included key areas such as goods, rules of origin, services, investment, government procurement, as well as others. As talks enter their final crucial stages, there are growing concerns over the threat CETA poses to Canadian sovereignty. Coupled with the financial turmoil sweeping Europe, deep economic integration with the EU could prove disastrous.
In a recent article Maude Barlow, national chair of the Council of Canadians, points out the dangers Canada faces with the current CETA trade model. She warns that, “CETA will open up the rules, standards and public spending priorities of provinces and municipalities to direct competition and challenge from European corporations.” Barlow goes on to say, “Europe is seeking a comprehensive and aggressive global approach to acquiring the raw materials needed by its corporations. At its heart, this deal is a bid for unprecedented and uncontrolled European access to Canadian resources.” She also added, “CETA will likely have a NAFTA-type investor-state enforcement mechanism, which means that European corporations will have the same right that U.S. companies now enjoy to sue the Canadian government if it introduces new rules to protect the environment.” If CETA includes something similar to NAFTA’s Chapter 11 which gives corporations the power to challenge laws and regulations that restrict their profits, U.S. and Mexican companies could benefit from any rulings that favour the EU. Ultimately, like NAFTA and other trade deals, CETA will further serve corporate interests.
A report released in December of last year, entitled Public Water for Sale: How Canada will privatize our public water systems, “exposes how CETA would open up public municipal water systems across Canada to privatization.” The paper prepared by the the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Union of Public Employees cautions that, “public water in Canada will be lost unless the provinces and territories take immediate steps to remove water from the scope of the proposed Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.” The Union of B.C. Municipalities supports a resolution by those cities and towns who wish to receive a clear, permanent exemption from CETA. Others have voiced opposition to any deal that could deny government the ability to favour local businesses and create jobs. There has been increased pressure on Ottawa to either fully or partly shield the municipal sector from government procurement of goods and services. Giving the EU full access to sub-national purchasing and contracting in Canada would open up areas such as school boards, universities, hospitals, as well as other provincial agencies.